Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 26.4.17

If you read yesterday's post, you'll know that my camino colleague and I had a bad night in Barcelos, deprived of sleep by a fairground that operated at 11 on the dial until 1.15am and then at a lower volume until 5am.

Today things got considerably worse, culminating in a farce that reduced us to laughter out of a mixture of bemusement, desperation and a small helping of anger.

Things went well as regards the walking itself, though we were distracted by the presence of a café at one point and missed a turn, compelling us to walk half a kilometre in the wrong direction before concluding the yellow marker signs were not just few and far between but non-existent.

During the day, I'd received two messages – both in English – which encouraged me to think that we were heading for a nice accommodating place in Vitorino de Piães. The first was to ask whether they wanted us to arrange for the onward transport of our bags today and the other was to say that they had a lunch waiting for us yesterday. Despite the fact we wouldn't be arriving until 4 or 5.

We arrived in Vitorino de Piães around 4.15, left the camino and headed for the location of the B&B - A Casa do Campo as shown by Google Maps. We did this in the face of comments and advice from at least 5 kind locals, all of whom were, first, anxious to tell us we were going the wrong way for Santiago and, secondly, non-plussed when we told them we were heading for the Casa do Campo. Of which none of them had ever heard. But we plodded on, tired but sure we were doing the right thing. 

After walking around 900 metres we entered the cul-de-sac indicated by Google and found not a B&B but 2 locked and shuttered houses guarded by 3 large dogs on chains. 

I checked with both Google Maps and with the reservation from, only to be given the same - incorrect – information. I then accosted 2 passing ladies, who advised us to return to the church, where they thought the place might be. Though they'd never heard of it nor knew of the street it was said to be in. 

As we set off, I called the number on which messages had been sent to me and had a conversation in almost-English with what sounded like the son of the owners. This resulted in a promise that we'd be picked up from outside the church in ten minutes. I was left wondering who on earth had sent the 2 messages earlier in the day. Clearly not the owners of the B&B. Their son or's computer?? 

A car duly arrived, containing a family of 2 adults and 2 teenagers. They were clearly surprised there were 2 of us. As this was too many passengers for the car, the parents disappeared and left us to chat to the kids about the fact that Google and had both misdirected us. 

The car returned several minutes later, minus the wife. The husband, then drove us back towards the wrong cul-de-sac and up the next minor road, for several hundred metres. Finally, we arrived at an imposing gate, drove up a long drive and arrived at a large house, where the wife was waiting. 

Once inside the house, it didn't take us long to realise it was a self-catering place, devoid of any food whatsoever. And with an Aga-type thing in the kitchen on which we were clearly expected to cook our dinner, sans instructions. In fact - apart from bed linen and towels – the only things in the place were our bags, which - to our relief and very great surprise - had found their from our hotel in Barcelos. Oh, and a small TV on top of the (empty) fridge, offering - it turned out - 7 Portuguese channels. But no bath for our weary limbs. 

As we looked at each other in more-than-mild shock, the couple asked us what we wanted them to buy for us by way of food, both for last night and this morning. And then left us to ask ourselves what on earth was going on and why had not advised of the nature of the place. Or, indeed, on how to get to it correctly! And we wondered how previous guests – if indeed there had been any – had found their way to it 

An hour or so later, the 4 of them returned with a stack of food and drink. I took the opportunity to ask the son whether it was a new venture, and was less than surprised to hear it was and that they hadn't had any guests - foreignor otherwise - before us. Clear evidence of this was the newness of the toaster, the kitchen utensils, the plastic washing-up bowl and a few other things the family had brought back from their shopping trip to - I guessed – Ponte de Lima.

It has to be stressed that the couple were charm itself and said they'd bring us 'portable wifi' shortly. And that the wife would come by in the morning to hand over our bags to the transport company after we'd left. Meanwhile, they stressed that several items were gifts from them. 

As they drove away, we opened the bottle of red wine they'd brought and then settled down to cook cod, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. And, meanwhile, eat the pastries we'd been gifted. Well, one of us did. 

All's well that ends well, they say. Which was never truer than in this case. Our bemusement and mild anger at being guinea pigs had been converted into pleasure by the kindness and all round niceness of the family. 

Final note: The street – lane, rather – in which the house is actually situated was only a few hundred metres from where the 2 old dears had told me they had no idea where it was. This is not the first time I've experienced this with people who've lived in the same place all their lives. My impression is that new streets never become known to them. That said, the address of Casa do Campo is: Rua Fonte de Ferrão. One possible reason why no one in the tiny village had heard of it was that a double R in Portuguese is pronounced as Kh, and so nothing like the double R in Spanish I'm familiar with and was employing . . . .

At the insistence of my walking companion, here's a foto of the cooker/oven:-

Footnote to yesterday: When I checked out of our hotel in Barcelos, I told the receptionist that the least the hotel could do - in view of my lack of sleep – was not to charge me for the Kit Kat I'd had from the minibar. Happily, she readily agreed. But I will still send off my letters of complaint. 


Alfred B. Mittington said...

I don't understand why you still put your trust in all those digital gadgets? In Evora you never managed to locate the tapas bar on your portable Tomtom; and I remember how that same marvelous machine told us we had arrived at our destination of Tomar, somewhere in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road.

A map, my dear fellow! An old fashioned reliable analog colorful MAP!


PS: a most entertaining tale, this one!

Colin Davies said...

And you really think even the best paper map would have shown us where the house was?up in the hills behind a tiny village?

Maria said...

Perhaps what they should have done was send you details on how to get to the place. When we went to France three years ago, we stayed at a B&B just outside Domme that did that. It was in a tiny hamlet, on a dirt road just off a tiny lane. They sent concise directions with the acceptance of the reservation. We followed them and found the place with no trouble. I suspect that if we had used Google maps we would have ended up just outside Paris.

Alfred B. Mittington said...

More probably, Maria, Google Maps would have led you to the cathedral of Milan…


Maria said...

Well, ComicAl, that would definitely have been a memorable trip.

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